Just saw a picture of a derailed train, purportedly in New Mexico. Even though no one was injured according to the report, derailments are always a bit unsettling to me; trains are notoriously pathetic at off-rail navigation and locomotion. What was more unsettling was reading about what caused the derailment.
It wasn’t sabotage, a stalled car on the tracks or poor rail maintenance. It was wind. Not a tornado, straight-line wind.
Having skipped most of my physics and engineering classes on the way to my shop-teaching degree, I don’t know what level of wind it takes to blow a train off the tracks. I’d reckon it involves a number of factors such as weight, wind speed, angle of thrust, surface area, friction, and so forth.
I also suspect that it’s not a matter of the wind suddenly knocking the whole train right off the track. I assume that we’re dealing with a train that was chugging along at thirty-five miles an hour or faster. If that is indeed the case, I speculate that if the wind manages to destabilize two or three cars, that’s sufficient to get the entire derailing process in motion. Maybe a really strong blast of wind hits at just the wrong moment. The weight, inertia, and vibration of those few cars presumably initiate a chain reaction that works in both directions, pulling the others off the tracks until the whole thing is lying on its side.
Ever hit that point in your life? You know, where this or that part slides off-kilter? Next thing you know, another key piece comes sliding after and then all it once you feel like you must be Casey Jones riding Old 97 right off of the mountain? You just hope you end up on top instead of underneath all that twisted bunch of scrap iron. And not scalded to death by the steam…
Maybe there was a warning shudder or two? A little hint that something wasn’t just right? If we’d slowed down a mile or two back, might have been okay. Too late for that now, though. But that’s okay.
It might take a while, but with the right help and equipment, most lives can be salvaged. Our God has been dealing with shipwrecks, train wrecks, and brain wrecks for quite a long while; he can probably sort us out of this pile and get us back on track.
We may very well carry a few dents and run a little slower for a while. Likely as not, we could have to leave a car or two at the bottom of the ravine. We might also have to consider the possibility that there are some days when even the strongest train needs to slow down a bit more. Or maybe wait a while for the storm to ease up.
It’s usually better to miss a deadline than be one.